Petitioner tells of abuse and torture in ‘black jail’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 August, 2014, 6:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 August, 2014, 6:53pm

An Anhui petitioner has revealed in court how he was tortured and kept in a “black jail” for two months, as he testified in the trial of one of his alleged abusers – a rare case highlighting China’s shady, unlawful detention centres.

Wang Weilong, a villager from Anhui province, testified that he was hauled away after filing a petition in 2012 before Beijing’s Supreme People’s Court. It was unclear what he was complaining about, but petitioners typically air grievances in the capital about social problems in their home areas.

Wang said that in the “black jail”, his guards “hit his head with a bell” and once “stabbed him with a burning metal prong", according to The Beijing News.

He was speaking at the trial of one of the alleged guards, surnamed Xing, at the Daxing District People’s Court in Beijing. Details about the case are scant, but the lawsuit was brought by the prosecutor’s office and deals with the illegal detention.

Wang presented photos to the newspaper showing long streaks of burn marks and scars on his body.

Wang said more than a dozen petitioners from other provinces were kept at the “black jail” when he was there, and claimed the provincial governments’ liaison offices in Beijing were behind the detentions.

The defendant Xing, who was underage at the time of the alleged abuse, said in court he “was hired” to guard the petitioners for a salary of over 2,000 yuan (HK$2,500) a month. He plead guilty to the charge and apologised, but the court has yet to issue a ruling.

The newspaper quoted him as saying that another alleged guard, who is still at large, had direct contact to the provincial liaison offices.

However, Anhui’s Beijing liaison office on Thursday curtly denied having any involvement in the case.

“We’ve never heard about this man [Wang],” a spokesman of the office told the South China Morning Post. “And we have never conducted anything that violates laws.”

Responding to Wang’s account in the court, the spokesperson said: “You should know these petitioners always tell lies.”

The spokesman said the office welcomed ever “mannered petitioner” and exercised restraint when confronting “radical” ones.

Lodging complaints to the central government in Beijing is not uncommon for petitioners across China. It often represents the last resort for citizens who feel they are being mistreated by local authorities.

The trip is a risky one: many human rights groups have said that petitioners are frequently intercepted – and sometimes illegally detained – by thugs.

Most of the complaints that reach Beijing involve land grabs, labour disputes and social security, the government’s report has shown in the past.

Despite Beijing’s long-term efforts to rein in the number of petitions, there are mounting cases brought to the administration every year. The State Bureau for Letters and Calls, which handles petitions, and its offices across China have in total received an estimated 10 million enquiries and complaints every year between 2003 and 2007.

As of May 1 this year, however, Beijing banned citizens from bypassing local authorities and filing complaints with higher authorities in Beijing – a measure to prevent social unrest or protests in the capital.

In some cases, desperate petitioners have taken radical measures to draw public attention to their cause. Last month, seven Jiangsu petitioners who claimed they were victims of a land grab, attempted to kill themselves by swallowing insecticide in front of a newspaper office in Beijing, and drawing nationwide attention.

This triggered a local investigation which resulted in 14 local officials being punished for the land grab. But the petitioners themselves were detained by police for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”.